W.Va. AG Files Legal Brief Against EPA

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia is sending a strong message to Washington to help protect its coal and natural gas industries.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed what he calls a "major" brief with the U.S. Supreme Court against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new rule on cross-state air pollution.

"This is a really important issue because it really gets to the whole question as to how much authority states have and the federal government has in implementing the Clean Air Act," said Morrisey.

West Virginia is joined in the brief by other states including, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The brief claims that the EPA exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) when the agency promoted a rule in 2011 announcing new air pollution cuts and imposing federal implementation plans on states. The brief also argues the CAA requires the EPA to give states an opportunity to decide how to meet new air pollution standards.

"You can't have standards in place to meet the needs of New York, or Arizona, and also meet the needs of a coal-producing and oil and natural gas producing state like West Virginia," said Morrisey.

West Virginia, along with 15 other states, has already sued the EPA over the new regulations. A federal judge later ruled the agency went too far when it increased reviews of clean water permits for mountaintop mining operations. Then, the EPA appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals who later struck down the regulation saying it "exceeds the agency's statutory authority."

The Supreme Court has since agreed to review it and is expected to hear oral arguments next month. A decision is expected to be made next June.

The brief filed Wednesday supports that lawsuit.

According to a news release, this is the first time in at least two decades that an attorney general from West Virginia has led in the authoring of a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court involving the EPA.

"The reality is that the state of West Virginia has a better sense than the federal government as to how best to lower air pollution," said Morrisey.

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